Homer and Langley by EL Doctorow | Book review | Books | The GuardianThe blind son of a wealthy Manhattan gynaecologist, he had died, at the age of 70, of malnutrition. Dressed only in an old bathrobe, his emaciated corpse sat bolt upright on the floor, surrounded on all sides by teetering ziggurats of junk. One hundred and fifty tons of bric-a-brac would eventually be cleared from the rat-infested mansion, among it 10 clocks, 14 grand pianos, a 7ft tree limb, the jawbone of a horse and stacks of yellowing newspapers dating back 30 years. Only 10ft away from Homer, ensnared in an anti-intruder trap of his own making and hidden beneath some of the objects he had spent his life accumulating, lay his brother and carer, Langley. It would take police two weeks to find him. The account on the page is, ostensibly, a manuscript bashed out on a Braille typewriter during his final days as he looks back with both fondness and regret on the events of his life. That world view expresses itself as a kind of kleptomania.
Homer & Langley
The Odd Couple
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The reclusive Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, became a tabloid sensation in the first half of the 20th century. Not least in , when a manhunt was called for the capture of Langley after the body of his brother was found in the once-elegant Fifth Avenue Manhattan manse they had inherited. The manhunt was called off three weeks later — but there was no let-up in public interest, as it emerged that a putrefying Langley had been found dead just 10 yards from Homer's body.
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Two brothers, both blind to the dangers of hoarding
E. L. Doctorow on His New Novel "Homer & Langley"
The subject of E. After their deaths, in , investigators had to break an upstairs window to gain entrance. After both Collyers were extracted, more than tons of refuse was removed from the building. But Doctorow considers the Collyers in a less lurid fashion, casting them as sympathetic, if eccentric, players in the drama of the departed American century — sepia-tone figures in an elegiac zoetrope. These happenings unfurl not in herky-jerky newsreel fashion but slowly, in a stately, careful retelling by Homer Collyer, who is blind. Homer can sense, but not see, the transformations going on around him.